WARNING: this review contains information which some may consider to be spoilers. This page covers the Armitage III Poly-Matrix regular DVD, the Armitage Dual-Matrix special edition DVD, and the Armitage action figure from McFarlane Toys.
Armitage III Poly-Matrix
The title of this film is a bit confusing, as the "III" in the title refers to the "Third" type of robot in the universe of the film, rather than being a notation that this is the "third" movie in a series. The "Thirds" are androids who blend into the human population, unlike the "Seconds" who are clearly androids and have on/off buttons on their foreheads. (The terms "robot" and "android" are used interchangeably in both Armitage films, so we'll be using them the same way on this page, although an android is a robot built to appear human.)
The film, shown in widescreen, opens with Ross Sylibus traveling to Mars: he was a cop in Chicago, but has been reassigned to Mars after the death of his partner. A robot killed his partner, so he doesn't think too highly of robots in general. In the airport, he meets his new partner, Naomi Armitage, who is in the middle of tracking a killer. When it turns out that the victim was a robot "pretending to be human," things get interesting.
One revelation in the film is that Ross has a cybernetic leg, and a near-fatal encounter on the job on Mars leaves him with even more cybernetic parts. Ross is slowly becoming a machine, and his understanding of this helps him lose his hatred for robots, a hatred which is completely shed when he figures out that his new partner (Armitage) is a Third.
Once they learn to trust each other, they turn their efforts to tracking down who is killing all the Thirds on Mars. Their investigation reveals many secrets about the Thirds: mostly female, the Thirds are "assassin-roids," highly skilled killers. (Thankfully for Mars, Armitage puts these skills to "socially acceptable" use as a police officer rather than as an assassin.) A more surprising secret is that the Thirds are also built to be able to conceive. Apparently Mars has a low birth-rate among colonists, and a government plan was hatched to create the Thirds rather than see the population grow via immigration from Earth. A new treaty with Earth during the time period of this film makes the Thirds and their ability to bear children irrelevant and unwanted.
Naomi Armitage is voiced by Elizabeth Berkley, and while it would be easy to make an easy joke about Showgirls, Ms. Berkley did a fine job in the role. Keifer Sutherland voiced the role of Ross Sylibus, and both performances were exactly what they needed to be. By that, we mean that both were believable and neither made us constantly think, "that's Keifer Sutherland" or "that's Elizabeth Berkley." Famous voices in animation can often be distracting, but neither was in this film.
Purist fans may be disappointed by this DVD: Armitage III was originally released as four episodes of 30 minutes each. With a running time of 90 minutes, this version clearly comes up 30 minutes short. If you haven't seen any of the four episodes, you won't notice anything missing. Parts of the film are confusing, but it is due to plot twists rather than "missing chunks" of the film.
The extras on this DVD are a tad sparse, but it is not touted as a "special edition," so that is to be expected. It has the theatrical trailer and the option to add Japanese subtitles over the English audio. The production notes include quotes from the screenwriter and the director, as well as a screen promoting the soundtrack on CD.
Poly-Matrix serves up much graphic violence and a dash of strongly-hinted-at sex. This film has often been compared to Blade Runner, and that's a good comparison: if you wouldn't allow your child to watch that, don't let them watch this. The violence is mostly directed at robots, but these robots look like humans and also bleed like humans.
Rating: 16 UP
Running Time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Pioneer Entertainment (USA)
Suggested retail price: $14.95 for the regular DVD
Armitage Dual-Matrix (Special Edition)
Armitage Dual-Matrix comes in four versions: plain "just the movie" DVD, special edition DVD, two-disc set (with Dual-Matrix and Poly-Matrix both), and a special collector edition which comes in a "collector tin" lunchbox and includes a repaint version of the McFarlane action figure. (The DVD in the lunchbox set is the special edition DVD.) This review is of the special edition DVD.
Presented in full screen, Dual-Matrix picks up several years after the events of Poly-Matrix. Ross and Naomi, due to the unauthorized nature of their investigation and findings in Poly-Matrix, have been living under assumed names. They are married and have a young daughter, Yoko.
A secret factory on Earth is attempting to create more "Third type" androids, and when the androids revolt, they are slaughtered, with the revolt and massacre passed off as something else to the media. On Mars, Naomi receives the transmission of the memories of the slaughtered Thirds, and leaves to investigate.
A series of events unimportant to this review* find Ross (in his assumed name) being asked to represent Mars at a Chicago summit on robot rights. Ross accepts, as it is a chance to follow after Naomi and see his old hometown again. As you would expect with a young child involved, Yoko is kidnapped soon after they reach Earth, and used as a pawn to sway Ross's vote. Ross has a car chase which is done in 3D rather than drawn animation, and rather than being out of place, the scene lends excitement to the film.
* = It's more complicated than you want to know unless you want to know every last thing about the film. Ross is a security guard, and kills the terrorists who are attacking the factory where he works. As it turns out, the guys he kills are human, while the ones who got away are robots. This sways Martian public opinion on the whole human-robot debate.
In the meantime, Naomi is gravely wounded while searching for the truth about the secret factory. Star Wars fans will cringe to learn that Mouse, the robot who finds and repairs her, is voiced by Ahmed Best. Unfortunately, Mouse is another goofy comic relief character, just as Jar Jar was. He betrays Naomi by selling her data to the villain, and is beaten senseless when the data does not contain the key to her ability to conceive a child. (Depending on the depth of your hatred for Jar Jar, this alone might be worth the price of the DVD.) As annoying as Mouse is, he redeems himself by providing a chuckle in a very short scene after the credits.
Naomi is later captured by Demitrio (the kidnapper and the villain behind the slaughter of the Thirds at the factory) during her attempt to rescue her daughter. Demitrio demands to know the secret to her ability to conceive, as he has already subjected Yoko to testing and found that she is "just" human. Naomi replies with a kick to his crotch and a lecture that the ability to be a mother lies in a woman's heart.
The rest of the film involves Naomi, Ross, and Yoko racing to catch a shuttle back to Mars while being pursued by two clones of Naomi. In the course of the pursuit, Yoko learns that her mother is not human and overcomes her fear of this knowledge.
Neither Keifer Sutherland nor Elizabeth Berkley provided voices for this sequel, instead it is Juliette Lewis who voices Naomi Armitage. While the "unknown" Skip Stellrecht did an excellent job voicing Ross, Ms. Lewis left us a bit cold as Armitage. Perhaps her voice is too recognizable? In addition to being constantly reminded that it was Juliette Lewis, the voiceover at times sounded as if it were from an initial read-through of the script, rather than the final recording.
The extras on this DVD, being a special edition, are more plentiful than on the copy of Poly-Matrix above. The image gallery has 60 images (line art and color), a trailer for the film, roughly ten minutes of teasers for other Pioneer anime titles (Vandread, Hellsing, Soultaker, Gatekeepers), and a 16-minute "Assembling Armitage" featurette. There are also three tracks from the soundtrack, and a choice of English or Japanese audio. (The Japanese audio also allows the selection of English subtitles.) There is also a 16-page booklet which helps explain the characters and lists the cast and credits.
The featurette has the director and composer talking about their parts in the production of the film, as well as Juliette Lewis, who mentions that this is her first voice-over film. She explains that she is often recognized in public because of her voice, and so she wanted to do a project that involved just her voice.
The violence in Dual-Matrix is less graphic than in Poly-Matrix, although violence still abounds. There is brief female nudity from time to time, but no sex.
Rating: 16 UP
Running Time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Pioneer Entertainment (USA)
English-language web site: http://www.armitagedvd.com/
Suggested retail price: $19.98 for the regular DVD, $29.98 for the special edition DVD
Armitage Action Figure
The Armitage action figure is part of Series Two of "McFarlane's 3D Animation from Japan." The concept behind this line of figures is the same as the Movie Maniacs series: producing action figures of famous characters from movies, except in this case the movies are anime rather than horror and science fiction.
McFarlane has captured the attitude of the character, in the outfit from the final action scenes of Poly-Matrix. The weapons in her left forearm are deployed and her stance is as if she is walking, swinging that arm forward, about to aim it at someone. Her accessories are from earlier in the film: her sunglasses/visor, handcuffs, and her red handgun. The sunglasses can fit onto her face by sliding the stems into the small holes in her hair sculpt - her bangs hide the holes, so that if you display her with the glasses off, the look is not ruined. Her left hand is a fist, but her right hand is sculpted so that she can hold the gun. She also comes with a display stand with the movie logo and the product line's logo.
The Armitage figure has real metal links for earrings, one of two nice details which are easily overlooked. The other is the pattern of highlights painted into her hair, they mimic the light patterns on hair in the animation. Armitage is a bit light on articulation: neck twist, shoulders, wrists, and hips. More articulation would have been nice, but it is hard to complain when she stands easily on her own without the display stand.
The Armitage figure was released in 2001, but can still be found in stores such as KB Toys, Toys'R'Us, and Electronics Boutique, with a price range of $7.99 to $11.99 USD. She is also sold at RTM sponsors Big Bad Toy Store and The Outer Reaches.
The special repaint edition action figure included in the lunchbox DVD set is packaged a "specially designed box" rather than on a bubble card as the regular version is. The repaint figure shows more skin than the original, and has glossy rather than matte/flat paint.
In the summer of 2002, Toynami released an 8-inch "action doll" of Naomi Armitage: read the RTM Spotlight on this doll.
Armitage III: Poly-Matrix (dvd)
Armitage: Dual-Matrix (dvd)
Armitage - Dual Matrix (Special Edition) (dvd)
Armitage: Dual-Matrix & Poly-Matrix set (dvd)
Armitage - Dual-Matrix Lunch Box Set